Protester disrupts Draghi press conference

Female activist jumps on ECB chief’s press podium and throws confetti

A female activist is carried away by  security personnel after an incident at the press conference of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, yesterday. Photograph: Boris Roessler/EPA

A female activist is carried away by security personnel after an incident at the press conference of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, yesterday. Photograph: Boris Roessler/EPA

 

Mario Draghi brushed off speculation about an early end to the European Central Bank bond-buying scheme as a young female protester defied security to jump on the ECB chief’s press podium and showered him with confetti and paper.

In a chaotic interlude within the ECB’s fortress-like headquarters in Frankfurt, the protester startled Mr Draghi and chanted “End the ECB dictatorship” as she was dragged away by officials and arrested. Her T-shirt bore a similar legend, but spelled it “Dick-tatorship”.

Mr Draghi’s regular press conference resumed shortly afterwards and his unambiguous pledge to “firmly” execute the ECB’s €1.16 trillion quantitative easing programme helped European stock markets to a 14-year high.

The pan-European Eurofirst 300 index of leading shares rose 0.8 per cent to 1,653.62, the highest level since late 2000, and the euro lost ground against the dollar, falling to $1.0596.

Mr Draghi was taking questions after ECB governors held the bank’s interest rates steady at record lows, with the main rate at 0.05 per cent.

In only the second month of the scheme to spend €60 billion per month on the bonds of euro zone countries, Mr Draghi said there was “clear evidence that the monetary policy measures that we’ve put in place are effective.”

Amid early indications that the plan is working, he expressed surprise at speculation of an early end to it and said the ECB’s “focus will be on the full implementation of our monetary policy measures.”

While Mr Draghi expected Europe’s recovery to broaden and strengthen gradually, he made clear that the bond purchases “are intended to run until the end of September 2016 and, in any case, until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation.”

The ECB chief said the question of aid for Greece was for the Greek government to resolve. Amid clear signs of difficulty in the country’s latest engagement with international sponsors on a new loan deal, he indicated there was no immediate prospect of cutting off Greek banks’ access to funding.

Mr Draghi said there was no date to cut off ECB-backed emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) for Greek banks. “It’s entirely dependent on the conditions that would be in place, that are in place. And clearly the answer to all these questions is entirely in the hands of the Greek government.”

Asked what would happen to the ELA scheme in the event of a default by the country to international creditors, Mr Draghi said, “I don’t even want to contemplate that – and based on the Greek government’s leader’s statements, this option is not contemplated by themselves as well.”